Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Recipe 3: Braised Pork Belly

Tom Colicchio of Craft and Gramercy Tavern fame published a book five years ago called Think Like a Chef. Prior to reading this book I slaved over recipes, following them to a tee and letting my manic self go a little nutty if I couldn't find a particular indgredient. This book changed that for me as it broke down technique in a way that I could finally access. Since then I've been addicted to technique based cookbooks (Colicchio, Judy Rodgers, Molly Stevens and Biba Caggiano being some of my favorites). Using technique from Think Like a Chef, in 2000 I tried my first braise - a traditional braised short rib. That meal revealed a secret to me - that if you use time like an indgredient, the transformation that takes place for certain meats and vegetables is out of this world. I spent the next few years perfecting this truly heavenly dish and now its my official meal of love as we make it for very special people, on special occassions, when we want them to know how much we love them.

In Think Like a Chef, there is a recipe for braised pork belly that I've always wanted to try (GQ voted it their favorite dish of the year and I'm always searching for dishes that make Pete and other male friends swoon the way Elaine does over a dish). I was toying with the idea of it being our next group recipe but wondered if anyone in the group had ever worked with pork belly before. I thought it would be fun for those of us who hadn't to try a recipe that forced us to talk to our butchers and seek better butchers if ours couldn't special order pork belly for us. When Kate wrote yesterday that she went through a pork belly phase last year I laughed out loud because I realized why Elaine brought us all together. Only crazies like us would go through a phase on pork belly, or braised short ribs, or whatever. We're manic perfectionists who not only love to cook but love those "aha" moments both in the kitchen and at the dinner table.

So here is Tom Colichio's recipe for braised pork belly or as he calls it braised fresh "bacon." Kate posted two wonderful recipes also so feel free to try this one or one of the other two. I think I will make this next Tuesday February 14.

Braised Fresh "Bacon"

Peanut oil
2# pork belly, skin on
Mireproix, coarse chop (carrot, onion, celery, leek, garlic - whatever you have)
About 3 cups chicken stock

Oven to 325-350. Season pork with salt and pepper and add skin side down to pan with hot peanut oil. Cook until skin is browned (about 15 minutes) and transfer to plate.

Pour off all but 2 tblsp fat and add vegetables, cook. Add fresh sage and/or thyme. Return pork belly to pan add 2 cups stock , simmer and put into the oven. After 1 hour add another cup of stock. Braise until fork tender. Don't rush, really wait for it.

Allow pork to cool in braising liquid.

Remove pork from liquid and remove skin. Score fat and cut pork into four pieces. Strain liquid and return meat to liquid.

I am a big believer that all braises taste better the next day. So after scoring fat, I will return pork to liquid and put in the fridge to cook the next day.

Oven to 400. Remove fat on top and reheat until pork is heated through and the fat nicely browned.

Make a box of rice pilaf and throw away the box before anyone sees, light a candle, indulge in some really great red wine, tell him you love him, and enjoy!

For those in the group that don't braise often, this is as classic a braising recipe and technique as one can find -- the only indgredient missing that is often found in a braise is wine to help tenderize the meat while cooking. Unlike beef short ribs or osso bucco - tough cuts that really need the help of wine - I'm assuming the pork is tender enough that the slow cooking in the stock without the wine is fine and that's why he left it out.


Blogger Elaine said...

I think I'm going to make the mac and cheese and the pork belly this weekend for dinner. is that just going to put me on the toilet for weeks? sounds so good together though

07 February, 2006 22:51  
Blogger Kate said...

This looks good Jer. I will do this for valentines too. Thinking of doing a potatoey gratin with, for a creamy crispy contrast.

13 February, 2006 06:34  
Blogger Kate said...

I am afraid trash telly won last night - footballers' wives..doubt you get it in the states but its very bad and completely addictive, it sucked me in for hours. I didnt get my self organised so we are having a thrown together dinner for valentines.... pork another day, probably at the weekend. Hope you all had a good valentines evening

14 February, 2006 05:12  
Blogger Jer said...

I couldn't find pork belly at any of my local markets. I was so sad. Its times like this when I really miss living in San Francisco or New York. So the pork belly will have to wait until I can make it out to Mira Mesa or National City - two asian enclaves outside of San Diego (to the east). I'm sure there will be some asian market in one of those towns that sells crazy cuts and delicacies. Fresh frogs anyone?

Instead of braised pork belly, I braised beef shank (like osso bucco but beef). Cooked it the night before and ... uh-oh ... ate all the bone marrow while standing in the kitchen straining the sauce and boiling it down. Cooks first right? Is there anything as luxurious as bone marrow, eating it right there off the bone?!! I think I braise just to make some good bones to suck on the night before I serve the meat. Elaine, I know you know what I'm talking about!

Served with sweet potatoes cooked in butter and maple syrup topped with fried sage leaves. Also served yukon gold mash topped with black truffle oil and chopped chives. Nelson and my cousin Teena joined me and Peter. Nelson and Pete did a number on those potatoes.

Dad had an angioplasty procedure done yesterday and I'm doing my best to help make meals that are good for his diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, gout, and liver disease. I want to cry thinking about what he can't eat. On my way home from yoga tonight I thought about the heavy meal I had last night and promptly boiled brocolli for tonight's meal while Pete enjoyed a banana. Delicious he proclaimed. I must admit, my brocolli was pretty damn good too. Finished my greens off off with a valentine's day truffle and a hot cup of green tea and started day dreaming about the fennel roasted pork loin that Cath inspired in me tonight.

16 February, 2006 01:36  
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